We took the Crown Range Road from Queenstown to Wanaka, there’s a very nice lookout at the top of the road (Arrow Junction Lookout point), we stopped here and I snapped an eleven shot panorama with my FA43 (portrait mode). These panoramas always end up being ultra wide because I don’t take the second layer of pictures on top to get more resolution. Due to the massive resolution of my K-1, this picture is probably somewhere in the region of 180MP at full resolution, I didn’t process it at full resolution due to the ridiculous size I’d have to work with, and the fact that it will probably only be displayed here.
The drive up the road is fun, and the view is amazing, it’s probably even better when you get to the top of the road (Crown Range Summit), there’s a lookout point that seems a bit hairy to get to (just on the shoulder) but well worth it, actually looks like there’s a walking track there too. And with that, I think I’m done with posting my pictures from this visit of New Zealand (I’ll be adding to Flickr for a while still though), I was going to post another Throwback Thursday this week, but it’s probably a bad thing if the only content here is archived news, so I’ll save that for next week.
We had no plans on our last day other than to visit one of the local markets in Queenstown. I also wanted to go to Kawarau Bridge to see (not do, too old for it these days) some bungy action, the other thing that I was thinking about doing was driving up to one of the nearby ski resorts to check out the view, whether it be Coronet Peak, or the Remarkables (lucky we didn’t, I just saw today that it was Treble Cone that has the really nice view), but wimped out due to cold.
The market was small as you’d expect, but Emmy managed to find some interesting things, Oscar and I went to look at the ducks swimming in the lake. After about half an hour we left and went looking for something else, I can’t remember the reason exactly but we drove up the road toward Arrowtown and ended up turning off the Shotover Jet (boat) site, Arthurs Point.
I should’ve taken some pictures of the boat but I was lazy, and it was also too bright to take pictures of the bridge over the gorge, so I ended up with nothing again (have to remember that something is better than nothing in future!). We then went back to Queenstown to grab some lunch from Ferg Baker which is also run by the Ferg Burger crew and right next door. The pies were okay, reasonable value at least at about 4.50$ a pop. Then we drove up to Glenorchy-Queenstown Road and stopped by the roadside to eat them. I managed to stall long enough to snap up some long multi-exposure shots too.
Worked out pretty well, didn’t quite get the mirror effect in the lake that I was after because of some boats (mainly TSS Earnslaw but also a couple of jet boats too) but the end result looks pretty good to me. I managed to convince Emmy that we should go watch the bungy at Kawarau Bridge since it is quite close to Queenstown.
Well, it isn’t quite as close as I thought but not too far, only about 25 minutes if I remember correctly. It was worth it in the end, we had some good fun watching the (mostly girls) jumpers. Most of them did pretty well and jumped quite quickly, there was only one girl that took a lot of coaxing and then eventually a little nudge to go over. Probably about half o a bit less than half of the jumpers sort of walked off the edge and bungied feet first which looks kind of awkward.
I also managed to capture some pretty sweet shots of the jumpers mid jump, I had the AFC mode on and tried to follow them down, from my perspective it seemed a bit random, but the camera looks to have captured them pretty well.
I didn’t think that I was able to keep the subject in focus as they were moving pretty quickly but the focus looks pretty spot on in these pictures.
I threw the DFA100 macro on and put the camera in AFC to see if I could get anything, and I was a bit surprised that the picture came out all right, so I kept trying and managed to get a few keepers. I think I ended up taking pictures of seven different jumpers and I got an in-focus shot of each, so I was pretty happy. Just having a look at the pictures, maybe something like 150mm-200mm would’ve been ideal but obviously I don’t have such a lens. The DFA 100 did pretty well for a pretty slow focusing lens, and the sharpness is definitely nothing to sneeze at.
We then drove back to Queenstown where Emmy did some more last minute shopping before we headed to the airport. On the way, we dropped off our car at the Go Rentals hire centre (very short ride to the airport). We hired a Toyota Corolla hatchback (just like last time) as we weren’t driving off road or anything crazy, the car was in pretty good condition and drove very smoothly, no complaints from me. It had the infant seat installed which didn’t need any adjustment on our part and while Oscar complained a lot, he does that in our car with the seat he’s been riding in for a couple years now.
It wasn’t the cheapest car, it certainly wasn’t the most expensive, but it was the best balance of reliable car and price, and insurance/excess conditions. The short shuttle ride from the airport to the car hire pickup location was a bit annoying because it was cold and rainy when we arrived, but I would use them again.
We stayed at the Heritage Queenstown, which is a four (?) star hotel at the southwestern end of Queenstown, it’s a little bit of a walk into town but we drove everywhere so no difference for us. We did not fork out for the lake view which we instantly regretted upon driving past the lake on the way to the hotel and then walking into our room. The beds were quite soft, and I wonder if requesting a firmer mattress would have achieved anything, maybe I will try that next time. Overall, the hotel was good but I wonder where you would park your car if the hotel car park was full. We were hoping to use the swimming pool but it is not heated and outdoors so we didn’t bother, even the spa is outdoors albeit completely under cover. We’d stay there again if the price was still a reasonable value, maybe in a lake view room though.
One last note, we had dinner at the airport because of the timing of our flight, and the Airspresso diner was actually quite reasonable for taste and value. I had a cheese burger with chips, and Emmy and Oscar shared a mac and cheese, probably better than most places outside without having a major airport tax.
For our last full day in New Zealand, we went for a drive up to Wanaka via the Crown Range Road. To say that this is a fun drive would be an understatement, it winds its way up a hill to a nice lookout where you can see very far (I will post a panorama of this view in a later post). Then winds its way back down to the small town of Cardrona before making its way to Wanaka.
This is where I have to apologise because we arrived at lunch time and the sun was quite high and bright, and for some reason I decided not to take any pictures at all! So I have no pictures of the beautiful lake and the view to Mount Aspiring, honestly no idea what I was thinking (I think I was thinking we’d be back later in the evening with better light, or hopefully some clouds).
We didn’t end up doing much other than a short stroll along the lake side and lunch from a bakery. Oscar had some fun at the local playground but otherwise we didn’t really see anything locally. After lunch we went for a drive to see if there was something nice to look at, the sign at the entrance to town said Glendhu Bay, so we went in that direction hoping for something nice. We drove past Roys Peak which was really busy, looked like a good walk (and now that I googled it, looks like something to do in future for sure).
We got to Glendhu Bay but didn’t see much other than a lot of camper vans. There was a sign that went off road to Motatipu Gorge so we thought, let’s just drive up there and see what it is.
As soon as we turned off the main road it became gravel, and then dirt road, so the 6km drive ended up taking about 20 minutes to reach the end of the road. There’s a walking track there that follows the river, but we just went down and had a little look before leaving and driving back to Queenstown. It’s funny, this was a bit of a random venture and I realised once we got out of the car that I came to this same place ten years ago and probably came to the same conclusion then. At least this time I had a camera with more functions allowing me to take a picture that I could be happy with.
[Update]: Forgot to mention that there are some seriously nasty mosquitoes along this river/stream, my top was not covering my back near my waist, and I ended up with four or five bites on my back, plus two more on my wrist. They were really itchy bites too, damn, it wasn’t that warm, but they must be alpine mozzies or something.
So back to Queenstown but this time rather than going over the Crown Range Road again we went the other way via Cromwell. We stopped at Lake Dunstan which has a beautiful mirror effect (if the water is still enough) but it was a bit late by the time I was finished there so we carried on back to Queenstown from there. We also stopped at the Roaring Meg lookout which I might post a picture of in a later post (HDR). It was not the nicest drive back to Queenstown from there as the sun was setting and pretty much blinding us although driving through that canyon is quite cool.
So for our last proper meal in Queenstown we went with seafood, and Fishbone was our choice. It’s quite expensive if you’re just after fish and chips so probably not the place to go for that, but there was plenty of variety for seafood. Emmy was really after mussels so she ended up going for the fish stew, and I went with one of the recommended specials, lemon sole.
My fish was quite good, the lemon giving it a good little zest, the fish stew came with some nice crusty bread, and I’m sure it was quite good too. Oscar was getting to be a real pain at dinner times by this time of the trip so we pretty much ended up getting out as quickly as possible. I’d recommend this place for seafood if you get that craving in Queenstown. Our last day in Queenstown next, where we didn’t do a lot, but still managed to try out a few functions on my camera.
We had some good weather to end our trip, and for the first of these nice days, we headed for Arrowtown, just a 20 minute drive from Queenstown. It’s an historic gold mining town and is known for its spectacular Autumn colours. There are also a lot of little shops to keep the ladies interested, as well as a museum where you can learn about the history of the area. There are a few walking trails out the back of the town where you can really enjoy the Autumn colours, and I guess it can be called a river, although it’s quite shallow (I wouldn’t cross it in sneakers though).
Before doing anything, we made our way to The Chop Shop for breakfast since Emmy didn’t have anything and us boyd only had some corn flakes earlier. It was okay, but nothing special, I had scrambled eggs, Emmy had the special corn fritters (spicy caramel was a bit sweet still), and Oscar had some kind of super ridiculously sweet babycino. I’d already had a bit for breakfast so I just went for something simple so as not to spoil my appetite for lunch.
The museum is really quite interesting (especially for me being of Chinese descent), I think it’s built into an original town building and you can see a lot of the historical tools that were used, as well as learn about the Chinese “invasion” that occurred during the gold rush. That was our morning, looking at some shops and then the museum.
We had lunch at the Arrowtown bakery (as a money saving move), turned out to be a good idea as the food was reasonably priced and tasty. I had the mince and cheese pie (pie, peas, potato deal) that comes with peas and mashed potatoes with gravy. It wasn’t my first choice but they seemed to be having a shortage at the time. After that, it was time to enjoy some Autumn colours, along the way we wandered through the historic Chinese settlement (restored) to see how these gold seekers lived, must’ve been hard that’s for sure.
We wandered back along the trail and along the river but turned out that we were on the wrong side of the stream, so we couldn’t get back to the car park without getting our feet wet. So we had to stroll back and around the stream before we could head off.
It was a bit too late to visit Cromwell as I had originally thought might be possible, so instead we stopped by Lake Hayes and then again at one of the stopping points along the Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to shoot the Remarkables at sunset. Lake Hayes was a bit random, but we were driving back to Queenstown and drove past this lake, and the sun was shining, and the clouds were whisping (?), so I decided that it might be worthwhile, turns out it was, the mountains around the lake make for some breathtaking views, and it’s only 15 minutes from Queenstown on the way back from Arrowtown.
We finished off the day by having dinner at Bombay Palace which is down the bottom of the main road (Shotover St) clustered with a few other Indian restaurants. It’s a chain (since we saw one in Wanaka too), and it was the only Indian restaurant in that section that didn’t have a tout out the front. Won us over already (also had more people eating than the other places), I had the lamb vindaloo, and Emmy had the chicken tikka masala (so that Oscar could have some if he felt like it).
I was happy with mine, ordered it hot (not Indian hot) and it was just the right spice level, flavour was good (comparable to Tandoori Den LOL) and the lamb was tender. The service was good and the restaurant comfortable, so two thumbs up from me.
Next up, we visit Wanaka.
A dreary morning that we spent in town looking at art galleries was followed by a short drive up to Glenorchy, which turned out to be one of the real highlights of our trip. So having read the forecast correctly this time, we decided to stay in Queenstown and visit some of the local galleries and check out the local artwork in the morning. There are a quite a number of galleries with varying types of works, we mostly looked at paintings and photos, but there were some sculptures mixed in too. We had fish and chips at the local Erik’s Fish and Chips before driving up to Glenorchy in the afternoon.
Stopping several times along the windy Glenorchy-Queenstown Road to take in the beautiful views before arriving in Glenorchy about an hour later, it’s definitely one of the best drives you’ll find. I’d rate it above the Great Ocean Road based on scenery for sure. We visited Mrs. Woollys General Store to see what they had in stock, and fortunately for us (Oscar having discovered the fun of jumping in puddles earlier that day) we managed to find a pair of gumboots just the right size for him.
After that little bit of shopping we went down to the pier and the lagoon to take some more photos of the beautiful scenery around. What a picturesque little town, and we didn’t even visit the Glenorchy Animal Experience (which is a place to visit farm animals for the kids), I think we’d definitely visit again next time. The clouds were a bit too thick while we were there so I couldn’t take the exact pictures I wanted, but got some good stuff nonetheless. Before heading back to Queenstown we visited Mrs. Woollys General Store again for some hot chocolate, the spicy hot choc is two thumbs up!
After getting back, Emmy was feeling like steak (unbelievable I know) so we went to a reasonably priced steak house, Flame Grill, found on tripadvisor. The ribs were recommended so I went with that since Emmy was feeling like steak, she had the rib-eye. Both good choices, the steak was cooked medium rare just right, and the ribs were flavourful without being salty. We got a serve of grilled cheesy portobello mushrooms for Oscar which was quite a big serve. Definitely a recommend.
Next up, Arrowtown.
We set the alarm for 6 with the hope of leaving by 7am, on the long drive to Milford Sound, we got out by 7.20am so that was a victory. And so we set off on the four hour drive to Milford Sound via Te Anau hoping that the good weather forecast for Queenstown would carry over to Milford Sound. Silly me, I really should’ve checked the forecast for Milford Sound as it turned out to be a miserable afternoon there while beautiful weather cloaked Queenstown and surrounds all day. I didn’t even manage to capture any of the beauty of the pink sunrise (the Remarkables were looking especially photogenic) due to not wanting to cost us any travel time.
We stopped in Te Anau to have a snack and also pick up some food for lunch, we went with a bakery at the end of the main street near the lake, but it was quite over priced and turned out to be not great. The sandwiches we go were really average and the sauce that was inside made everything soggy, it is called Miles Better Pies, the pies were okay if expensive, but stay away from the sandwiches.
On we drove, and while we stopped at a couple of the viewing spots, I didn’t deem them worthy of a photo, it was mainly due to the time, bright morning light is not my favourite. One stop, Mirror Lakes was good according to Emmy but there were so many tourist buses there it kind of defeated the purpose. At this point the weather was still reasonable, but just before we got to Homer Tunnel it started to rain, and didn’t stop until we were well on our way back to Queenstown.
Even so (for me anyway), Milford Sound is still worth the visit, the landscape and waterfalls are beautiful and flowing fast in this kind of weather, although we barely even caught a glimpse of Mitre Peak. We did see some silly fat seals lying on the rocks (one even splashing in the water a bit), but no penguins this time. We went with the cheapest cruise that we could find, Jucy Cruise, which was fine, they’re all pretty much the same although I think some others might go a bit closer to the cliffs and waterfalls.
It was a bit unfortunate that we spent eight hours driving for the day, and then two hours on the cruise sitting inside avoiding the rain mostly, but live and learn, check the forecast for Milford Sound properly next time! I’ve been lucky enough to see it in sunny and rainy conditions now but for Emmy it was not to be, maybe next time we will stay nearby to avoid the long drive. It was a bit late when we got back so we just had dinner at the Hotel. My pork belly (with kumara rosti) was okay but Emmy said her fish and potatoes was bland.
Next up, a visit to Glenorchy.
Hello, I forgot to mention that I was taking the fam to New Zealand (Queenstown to be exact) last week, and that I’d be taking the newest addition to my family, my Pentax K-1 as well. I’ll probably post something on the K-1 after I’m done with the New Zealand stuff (as I’ll have had plenty more time to evaluate it (it’s been about a month so far). But anyway, we jumped on to a Jetstar sale and took a week off to try and catch some Autumn colours across the Tasman. Queenstown has to be one of my absolute favourite places to visit, there is just so much to do and see there, that my landscape eye never gets tired, except after driving for a few hours on not much sleep.
Our flight left Melbourne at 6.15am, which meant that we had to get out of the house at about 3am which wasn’t fun, and then to make matters a bit worse, the weather in Queenstown awaiting our arrival was unruly as well. Fierce winds meant that we had to circle the airport twice before the pilot decided it was safer to fly to Christchurch for the time being. After a short stopover it was decided that we’d have another go at flying to Queenstown, third time was a charm and despite some turbulence (it felt like) on the landing we landed okay about three hours late (3pm).
So with half the day gone and the timezone a couple hours faster, we ended up just skipping lunch and going straight to dinner. I took the kids to Winnies which is a pizza place, the highest rated in Queenstown, I went there ten years ago with Alf, and it is still good. We didn’t get garlic bread this time (:(), but a half and half (pescara/seafood and Luigi’s Italian), a kumara salad, and the soup of the day (mushroom and blue cheese).
The pizza was pretty good (both halves), the salad was hearty, and the soup (was for Oscar, but he decided that he was going to make sure he got the most out of his terrible two’s and not eat it) was creamy and rich. It was too much food, but I managed to finish off the pizza and salad at least.
The Monteith’s black that I tried wasn’t half bad either, in fact, it was very good. We decided to call it a day early so that we could rest up for the next day.
We decided to take a cruise on the TSS Earnslaw the next day, and with no plans for lunch we took the gourmet BBQ option, we managed to squeeze on to the 12pm option having only arrived at the booking office at 10am. The cruise is about fifty minutes one way, and about 3 and a half hours in total (including lunch) so you have about an hour for lunch, and then 30-40 minutes to wander around and also watch a sheep dog and sheep shearing demonstration. Lunch is a buffet and is of a very high quality, I tried all the meats, my favourite being the pulled pork, the lamb was second. The salads were good, and then for dessert, being full already I just had a serve of chocolate mousse and a serve of raspberry sorbet. There was also cake and chocolate brownies, etc, but unfortunately I ate too much before dessert. Had the Queenstown Brewers Wry Red which went very well with lunch.
The cruise itself was very smooth, the boat doesn’t rock at all, and you get some great views of the lake surrounds from the upper deck and can even see the crew hard at work in the (coal fired) engine room downstairs (nice and toasty down there).
With nice weather I decided that we should head up to Bob’s Peak to check out the view before dinner. Since it was a bit later than I first planned I decided that it was better just to take the gondola up and down rather than hiking up and gondoling down (especially with a toddler in tow). I wanted to ride the luge but nobody was with me, so I just went up to the viewing deck and staked out a few different angles (still ended up with the same picture I took ten years ago! not quite as wide though). There’s basically one really good spot up there where you won’t be blocked by any obstacles and you get the best angle, but two guys had already staked out that spot so I had to settle for roving around looking for some slightly different shots.
This very famous burger joint was our destination for dinner, and fortunately it was a Monday because the lines outside this place seem to get longer as the week gets goes, by Friday and Saturday, it’s just completely packed at night (even during the day too). There isn’t much seating space so we just got take away and ate back at the hotel. It’s a pretty good deal, we just got the basic burgers (Ferg) which are a decent size (and a kids burger for Oscar), it’s hard to find a similar value meal for the price in town (probably why it’s so popular).
With such clear weather I decided to try my hand at some night photography, specifically trying to catch the milky way. I’ve done long exposures to capture star trails before, but I wasn’t going to be taking enough time to get any interesting star trails, but with my new camera, getting the milky way would be something that I coiuld definitely attempt. My aim was to get the milky way hovering above the Remarkables or some kind of mountain for reference, I managed to capture something, and while it may not be great, I was certainly very pleased for a first try. I’ll be able to learn from this and hopefully produce something even better in future. Next day, Milford Sound, a lot of driving, how will we go?